DOJ: Apple waging antitrust ‘character assassination’

Federal officials are accusing Apple of waging “a campaign of character assassination” against a court-appointed antitrust monitor on e-book prices.

Instead of working with the external compliance monitor to reform its policies, the company has “focused on personally attacking [compliance monitor Michael] Bromwich, and thwarting him from performing even the most basic of his court-ordered functions,” the department alleged in a letter filed on Friday.

Last year, a judge on the U.S. District Court in Manhattan ruled that Apple had conspired with book publishers to fix the price of e-books. As part of its punishment, Apple was ordered to work with an outside lawyer to make sure its policies complied with the court order and fell within the law.

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The company has since been fighting the monitor.

Earlier in January, Apple told the court that Bromwich has been a rogue investigator who has overstepped his authority.

The tech firm said that Bromwich believes he is “unconstrained by the federal rules governing discovery and other matters” and acting on his own. Apple has also charged that Bromwich may be biased against the company because he has previously challenged its arguments. 

“Mr. Bromwich has not expanded his mandate and there is absolutely no evidence that he is biased,” Justice Department lawyer Lawrence Buterman wrote in Friday’s letter to Judge Denise Cote. “Apple simply does not want any monitor whatsoever, and manufacturing these baseless objections is the only way it apparently believes it can achieve that result.”

The Justice Department added that Buterman is supposed to challenge the firm’s policies to ensure they comply with the law. If his disagreement with Apple made him biased, it said, “then a monitor could serve no purpose other than as a rubber stamp.”

Bromwich is a former Obama administration aide who assisted on offshore drilling policy.